November 28, 2017
Preventing Workout Injuries after Health Hiccups
By Judy Kuan, personal trainer
Health. We take it for granted, until we don’t have it. It doesn’t take long – as little as a week – of being abnormally inactive for your body to rebel, making your normal workouts treacherous for vulnerable joints and areas of prior injury.
I have a client who was recently out with the flu. During that time, her “core-amnesia” – when her abs stubbornly refuse to do their job – had returned, and her back issues were flaring up. It took us two weeks – twice the amount of time she was sick – to really get her abs to activate again, for her back to feel better, and for her to get back to our normal “advanced monster mode” sweat sessions.
These things are inevitable. When they do happen, the key to not losing ground is to start getting active as soon as you feel better.
Obvious, right? But by active, I don’t mean returning right away to your “pre-sick” intensity levels and workout regimens. Your body may have other ideas, especially if it decides not to engage – literally. Recultivating muscle activation is critical to avoiding injuries as you return from a workout hiatus.
As self-aware as most of us are, we all have our blind spots. That’s why when you’re getting into a workout routine after any break, it can be particularly helpful to work with a fitness professional. Someone who can give you appropriate modifications, keep an eagle eye on your form, and make sure you’re working what you should be working. Core amnesia, glute amnesia…these things are so sneaky and can hit you when you’re at your weakest. Workout addicts aren’t exempt from this – in fact, we’re usually the biggest culprits, trying to push too hard, too fast after an involuntary break.
For example, feeling winded from a chest cold? Give your lungs a break and do some yoga and strength training instead. Not super confident you’re doing yoga poses correctly? Work with a yoga instructor to help you master the basics. One of the most enlightening aspects of going through yoga teacher training was that I’d been doing chaturangas (aka the yoga pushup) wrong for years in group classes, setting me up for chronic shoulder impingement issues.
Or perhaps you sprained your ankle when slipping on icy subway stairs? Get off of your feet and focus on Pilates and other mat exercises. I’ve modified boxing workouts to let clients who’ve had foot surgery be seated while they punch, or even had them lie on their backs to do kickboxing moves without having to stand up. Pilates is a tricky one – it’s often recommended for bad backs, but if you don’t engage your core properly, you’re just going to end up with more back pain. It’s another good candidate for some one-on-one help, especially when you’re just starting out.
The key is not to let health hiccups throw off your fitness momentum – the longer you’re out of the game, the more work it’ll take to re-engage your muscles. Why make things harder for yourself?